A federal judge on Friday released indicted trash magnate James Galante from pretrial detention, but imposed strict conditions on his movements to reassure prosecutors who claim he is likely to attempt to intimidate witnesses against him.
Senior U.S. District Judge Ellen B. Burns confined Galante, charged in a mob racketeering case with conspiring to dominate the western Connecticut and upstate New York trash industry, to his $1.6 million New Fairfield home.
Galante, 52, also is prohibited from having unauthorized contact with potential witnesses, targets of the continuing investigation and the co-defendants with whom he is indicted. He is not permitted to have cellular telephones in his house, is under an order not to use computers and must agree to the installation of a device on his home telephone line that keeps track of the numbers called.
In addition, Galante must wear an electronic monitor that tracks his movements and is permitted to leave his home only for medical appointments and meetings associated with his court case. He posted a $2 million bond secured by his home and adjacent building lots.
Federal prosecutors waged a vigorous fight to keep Galante locked in a federal jail in Rhode Island while he awaits a trial, which could be more than a year in the future, going so far as submitting a new, 20-page legal argument on the eve of his release.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael J. Gustafson wrote in the document that ``the government has presented clear and convincing evidence that the defendant has tampered with witnesses and that, going forward, there remains a serious risk that if released from pre-trial detention Mr. Galante will again tamper with witnesses.''
Galante is charged with dozens of offenses in an unusually broad racketeering indictment, which accuses him of paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for mob muscle provided by New York's Genovese crime family. Among other things, he is accused in two counts of attempting to persuade two employees to testify falsely before a grand jury. Those two counts were at the heart of the government's efforts to keep Galante locked up.
Over the past two weeks, Gustafson has played excerpts from court-authorized FBI wire taps on telephones used by Galante and his employees that the U.S. Attorney's office has said ``show the defendant to be a ... volatile bully.''
The excerpts played so far generally involve conversations between employees of the 20 or so trash related businesses Galante owns. In one, Gustafson said two employees are speaking in code about arranging for a suburban New York ``leg breaker'' to administer a beating to yet another employee who had somehow displeased Galante.
Galante can be seen and heard shouting profanely in his office at a competitor on a videotape he made himself. Authorities seized the recording. .
Defense lawyers say the tapes recorded some men trying to sound tough but doing little or nothing to back it up.
``There still isn't a single instance of consummated violence,'' Keefe said. All prosecutors have done so far, Keefe said, is suggest that Galante is prone to ``impolite'' language.
Galante is characterized in the indictment as the ring leader of a group of 29 individuals and 10 businesses accused of driving competition out of the trash hauling business and driving up prices to homeowners and businesses. Indicted with him were Matthew ``Matty the Horse'' Ianniello, who prosecutors is say is boss of the Genovese family, and former Waterbury Mayor Joseph Santopietro, described as a Galante consultant.
A source familiar with the case said Friday that several additional people, some of whom are members of Galante's sales staff, received letters this week from the U.S. Attorney's office informing them that they are investigative targets.
Contact Edmund H. Mahony at email@example.com